SALISBURY, N.C. – Catawba (9-16, 6-11 South Atlantic Conference) jetted out to a 27-8 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game then held on to defeat Carson-Newman (19-6, 12-5 SAC) Wednesday night at Goodman Gym.
The Eagles would make runs of 26-6 and 9-0 to get back in the game, but ultimately Carson-Newman never could build more than a one-point lead in the second half.
"I've got to give Catawba credit," Carson-Newman head men's basketball coach Chuck Benson said. "They made shots and we were punch drunk it seems like. Our kids responded, but it's tragic to lose with all the ramifications of this game."
A win would have kept the Eagles in the hunt for a regular season SAC championship. A loss means they now have to beat Wingate Saturday to avoid slipping to the four seed.
Catawba opened the game with Elon Edwards draining six threes on six attempts to jettison the Indians out to the 19-point edge. However, at the 10-minute mark in the first half, the Eagles clamped down on him – holding him scoreless the rest of the game.
Tyrece Little picked up where Edwards left off, finishing with a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double. It's the fourth double-double the Eagles have surrendered this year.
"They got us away completely away from our primary game plan," Benson said. "We had to use junk defense from the 10-minute mark of the first half on."
For the first time in four games, Ish Sanders (Cleveland, Tenn.) was held below 25 points. The junior ended up with a team high 17. Sanders 17-point outing ties for the lowest high individual effort the Eagles have had this season. It matches Antoine Davis' (Rustburg, Va.) 17 points in a 66-56 win over Tusculum in January.
Davis scored 15 for the Eagles while Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) added 14.
Combined Sanders and Davis went 10-for-29 from the field – the duo's worst combined shooting effort this season.
"It didn't seem like Ish and Antoine could ever get going," Benson said. "I felt like our defense was good enough, but we get 30 shots for Ish and Antoine and they make 10 of them. That's not what we need. They've delivered so many times, for tonight to be the night where they don't, again, it's tragic."
The Eagles return home for senior day Saturday against Wingate. Tipoff off is slated for 4 p.m. on the Coca-Cola Eagle Sports Network available on 106.3 ESPN Radio the Zone (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com.